Sunday, January 22, 2012

Clegg: "We must be bolder on fairer taxes but we're winning the argument"

Nick Clegg was interviewed by Andrew Marr this morning and, as has become my tradition, I've tweeted my way through it and preserved my commentary for you all to read.

He came across very well in the interview. You see, I first knew him a long time ago, and he talks to Marr in the same genuine and open way as he did with all of us way back then. He's being himself, which is something you don't often see with politicians at his level.

In my view, Marr didn't quiz him hard enough on welfare reform and particularly the cuts in benefits for the sick and disabled. It's not difficult to find evidence that these measures are a bad idea so a bit of laziness on Marr's part there. I'd have been interested to hear how Nick would have answered them.

The only criticism I'd really make about what he said was his use of that awful phrase "hard working families". It's quite a narrow phrase and doesn't take account of those people, who need looking after, who can't work for reasons of illness, caring responsibilities or there being no jobs.

However, Nick was pressed on taxes, fairness, the benefit cap, NHS reforms, bankers' bonuses and passed all those tests with flying colours. The thing about Nick is that he generally has a go at actually answering the question put to him. Often politicians use phrases like "let me be clear" as a deflection technique, but Nick actually means it.

There were three things that I felt were really important in what he said.

First was his clear passion to see greater fairness in the tax system. You can tell he's as fed up as we all are with the fact that bankers are still getting massive bonuses while the rest of us suffer, but he highlighted that this was a result of Labour's "irresponsible capitalism" giving them contractual entitlement to them.He talked about how the Coalition had done what it could to curb them. Asked by Marr on the Mansion Tax, he said that it was in our manifesto and if implemented would generate revenue to take taxes away from the poorest. He said that the Liberal Democrats were winning the argument on these issues.

Secondly, he said that the issue of how to deliver fairness in a time of austerity was a crucial issue for progressive parties everywhere. He pointed out Labour's failures in that regard - they, he said, had completely ducked the issue.

Finally, he was passionate about the Youth Contract, saying how he had pushed through government a far more ambitious plan to tackle youth unemployment than that offered by Labour. He clearly understood the effect of not getting a job, talking about the long term scarring of sitting at home filling in application after application and getting rejected.

The most amazing thing about the whole interview was that Spidey, who has not always been, shall we say, effusive in her praise for Nick, was talking about loving him forever.

Anyway, here are the tweets from the show.

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